Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Business Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



The blame and credit literature has operated largely on the assumption that actors want to reduce the blame assigned to them and increase assigned credit (Gioia & Sims, 1985; Greenwald, 1980; Shaver, 1985). As a result, much of the literature has focused on the shifting of blame away from the self and of credit towards the self (e.g., Crant & Bateman, 1993), rather than other behaviors that are less self-serving (e.g., blame-taking, Gunia, 2011). This dissertation explores a variety of blame and credit behaviors and explains why leaders may enact different types of blame and credit behaviors. In Chapter 2, I conducted a Pilot Study of semi-structured interviews with coaches to examine their thought processes leading up to communications of blame and credit. Study 1 painted a more comprehensive picture of the expressions and patterns of blame and credit which arise during post-game press conferences of NFL coaches. In Chapter 3, I drew from and integrated four separate literatures to develop a theoretical model proposing that there are four motives that drive leader blame and credit behaviors, and that contextual factors may influence the relationship between motive and behavior. In Chapter 4, I conducted three studies to test key elements of the theoretical model, combining an online field survey and experimental designs in the laboratory. These studies revealed that leaders with disparate motives may enact different blame behaviors in light of unsuccessful outcomes in particular. Overall, this dissertation (1) evolves our understanding of the communication and variety of blame and credit in organizations, (2) establishes a theoretical model delineating the motives driving leader blame and credit behaviors, and (3) provides empirical evidence that supports the validity of the theoretical model. This is the first paper of its kind to provide theory and scientific evidence regarding the motives behind blame and credit behaviors of leaders. In doing so, this dissertation brings to the forefront the importance of leaders’ blame and credit behaviors in organizations, and both generates and advances the conversation about these behaviors in the workplace.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Kurt T. Dirks

Committee Members

William P. Bottom, Ashley E. Hardin, Robyn A. LeBoeuf, Hillary A. Sale,


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